Most people know that I’ve always enjoyed Iron Chef America and despite the omnipresent, silly “whoosh” thing that the creators thought was clever to add to every “Chairman” action, I continued to watch almost to the bitter end.
The first iteration of Iron Chef America – about 2000 – was fraught with a few stumbles and if I recall correctly, with only three Iron Chefs: Bobby Flay, Wolfgang Puck, and Mario Batali. Later, as the regular series commenced, the Chefs consisted of Batali, Flay, Cat Cora (the only female Iron Chef for years), and Masaharu Morimoto. I understand that Chef Puck couldn’t continue because of previous obligations.
Even when Chef Batali no longer appeared on the show and the Next Iron Chef competition began, I enjoyed every minute. I was also happy when Chef Michael Symon won because he’s entertaining as well as a hell of a cook. Plus he likes BlueStar. What’s not to love!
However, by this time, the dreaded “whoosh” had become an ingrained part of every show, and I found myself recording each episode and fast-forwarding through what had become quite the irritant. I never quite figured out what Kung Fu whooshes had to do with a cooking show. I’m guessing nothing at all.
But I digress.
The final straw came when they decided that the 20-minute challenge had to happen. That’s when both chefs and their sous chefs have to whip up a creative, gourmet-level dish in 20 minutes. Silly.
You could just TELL that the chefs hated it.
Along with the silly 20-minute thing, they also introduced the “Culinary Curveball,” a cart which had something to throw the Chefs and their crews off but had to be made part of the ingredient presentation. You could just TELL that the chefs hated it. I don’t know about you, but that’s when ICA was no longer a priority and became irrelevent.
In retrospect, however, I realized that the silliness and stupid ideas were a lead-up/intro to Cutthroat Kitchen, very possibly the worst cooking show ever inflicted upon the Food Network viewing public. In the (three? four? Does anybody care?) seasons that it ran, I watched exactly two episodes – one to check it out and the second time to see if I’d been hallucinating.
In other words, ICA would go back to being a real cooking show again, concentrating on the ingredients and dishes, with the competition part being an also-ran.
Although I hated the reprehensible Alton Brown on that show, I still love Alton Brown, or “AB” as The Wineaux Guy™ and I like to call him. Even though I’m subscribed to his podcast (Alton Browncast) and visit his website about once a month, it was his announcement on Facebook Live that Iron Chef America would be a thing again that got my interest. But it would have differences. (See Fast Company interview here)
Could It be True?
He would be the Chairman. The judges would be actual food people and not some brainless ingénue who may have seen an episode or eaten something cheffy at some point. Gone would be the sound effects, the backflips, etc. In other words, ICA would go back to being a real cooking show again, concentrating on the ingredients and dishes, with the competition part being an also-ran.
That hope continued through Iron Chef Gauntlet, the new iteration of Next Iron Chef.
Alas, only some of the things AB promised came to pass in Showdown.
The “Chairman” is back, albeit in a much smaller role since AB now sits at the head of the judges’ table and engages the chefs and judges. I like that part!
Unfortunately, there’re still the backflips, there’s still a “Chairman” (and yes, I will always put it in quotes because of how the producers managed to make it a laughingstock), and the sound effects are somewhat present, although still equally unnecessary. There’s a new “floor reporter,” Jaymee Sire, who replaces Kevin Brauch, whom I liked despite the silly little sliver of a soul patch he insisted on sporting. She’s a little too perky and irrelevant in my opinion, but apparently, she’s been around the ESPN world for a while. Good for her.
The show begins with a Beat Bobby Flay style pre-competition. Two chefs square off against each other, and then the winner goes on to compete with an Iron Chef of the “Chairman’s” choice. I kind of like the concept – mainly because I like Beat Bobby Flay, especially since our own Chef Sam of Echo & Rig beat him – but at the same time, it feels a little too, um, *crowded.* Do one show or the other, but it feels as if a half-hour and then an hour show are being crammed into an hour’s time. I feel that they still have to straighten out a few kinks. And I also feel that the producers browbeat Alton into agreeing that the “Chairman” should be an important part of the show.
Naturally, I will continue to watch it since it’s a wonderful relief from Chopped, the myriad cupcake shows, and, thankfully, helps me celebrate the long-overdue demise of Cutthroat Kitchen.
I can finally watch Food Network again without cringing. Too much.
The photos displayed on this post are from the Food Network through the Creative Commons program. Surely you don’t think that I could take these pics!